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U.S., Belarus Reach Wool Accord

WASHINGTON — The Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements reached a deal with Belarus late Friday on quota limits for two women’s wool categories for which it issued a call last April, according to David Spooner, special...

WASHINGTON — The Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements reached a deal with Belarus late Friday on quota limits for two women’s wool categories for which it issued a call last April, according to David Spooner, special textile negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Details of the agreement were not made available at press time because both sides had not yet signed on the dotted line. It is unclear whether the U.S. agreed to higher limits than those it said it would unilaterally impose if an agreement could not be reached.

CITA said it would impose a 12-month quota limit of 55,021 dozen on imports of women’s wool trousers and 23,595 dozen on imports of women’s wool coats from Belarus if it could not reach an agreement. The interagency group did not impose quotas last year due to data discrepancies between the U.S. and Belarus on one import category. Both sides have since cleared up the discrepancies.

Belarus most likely negotiated for higher limits, but the former Soviet republic is not a member of the World Trade Organization and its apparel and textile trade is not restrained.

“We issued the calls because its trade was rising, they were uncontrolled and they had become a significant supplier in two categories last April,” said Donald Foote, director of the agreements division of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

Since then, overall apparel and textile trade from Belarus has declined. For the year ending Oct. 31, overall imports from Belarus fell 17.65 percent. Imports of wool coats fell 9.27 percent to 2.274 million square meters equivalent for the period, while imports of wool trousers rose 13.84 percent to 395,000 SME.

Belarus’ share of the U.S. import market of women’s wool coats is significant, standing at 4.09 percent, while its share of women’s wool trousers is 3.01 percent. However, its overall share of the U.S. apparel and textile market is miniscule, standing at 0.04 percent, in SME terms. The U.S. will also renew a quota limit on glass fiber fabric, the only other category Belarus has quotas on.

In other trade news, Spooner will travel to San Jose, Costa Rica, on Jan. 27 for the launch of negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. He said he plans to discuss initial expectations on rule of origin, customs issues and tariffs.

Spooner also said the U.S. will begin negotiations Feb. 17 in Hanoi on a bilateral textile and apparel agreement with Vietnam.